My #1 Gun

My current go-to rifle is a Sako 75 Hunter, chambered in 30-06.  I bought the rifle new in 2002 after selling a Colt Delta Elite (Noooooo!!!), and getting my tax refund.  Atop it sits a 3.5-10×42 Leupold Vari-X 3.

The overall impression the rifle gives is that it is made of quality materials, machined very cleanly, and finished to an impressive degree, especially considering some of the crap that is on the market today.  Instead of a short vs. long action type setup, Sako has five different action sizes, so that the receiver is a better fit to the cartridge.  The 30-06 action is labeled “IV” (that means “4” for those educated in public schools).

The bolt has 3 locking lugs, which makes for a shorter, 60° bolt lift.  It’s made very well, very precisely, and it’s smoooooth.  Really smooth.  It’s a total joy to behold.  It’s a push feed system (go ahead and scoff, you controlled round feed snobs 🙂  )

The trigger has no take up and minimal overtravel.  It’s the proverbial glass rod, breaking right at about 3 pounds.  The trigger is serrated, and not as wide as the Remington 700 trigger, which has always reminded me of a nasty, long fingernail.

The feeding system is a 5 round staggered column detachable box magazine.  It’s very well made (of steel, no less).  It clicks nicely into place and feeds smoothly and unfailingly.  It’s well long enough to allow the bullet I’m currently using to be seated into the lands.  It’s also expensive, meaning I only have 1 at the moment.  Yes, I understand that kind of defeats the purpose of a detachable mag.

The rifle just sat for a while.  I was pursuing semi-auto interests and pistols.  Somewhere along the line I fell in love with bolt guns.  After shooting a few of them, I came to the conclusion that the best one is the one I had all along.

I also shoot a Remington 700 frequently.  That rifle has been blueprinted, pillar bedded, has a McMillan stock, and shoots sub-half moa (maybe there is a more elegant wording I could have used).  The Sako hasn’t beat it’s accuracy, but at this point it’s not configured to.  Comparing the actions only, the Rem is like a Ford Focus, while the Sako is like some nice car I can’t afford to even know enough about.  The Rem action, having been trued, is smooth, but the Sako is the definition of precision butter when cycled.  I just lost you here, huh?

Here’s a good way to convey the Sako’s superiority over the Remington: the bottom metal.  The stock bottom metal on a 700 feels like it’s made from tin melted down from woks confiscated from Chinese peasants and cast immediately into the bottom metal at a government factory staffed by blind workers (forced child labor, no less) with severed limbs.  The Sako’s bottom metal is steel, and I think it’s milled into shape by magic elves.  There.

                                                             Made by elves

Sako has ceased production of this beauty in favor of a newer model, the 85, which is similar in most respects, but has a slightly different feeding system.  They market it as a quasi-controlled round feed.  I don’t understand that, one would think that it’s either controlled round feed or not, but I don’t really care as long as it feeds.  If push feed works for USMC Scout Snipers, it’s probably adequate for most shooters.  Sako also screwed up the magazine system in my opinion.  It now requires that the magazine be pushed in before it can be removed.  The other downside of the 85 is an unnecessary key-locking system which, to be fair, was introduced in the middle of the production of the 75.  I was lucky enough to not need a key to start my rifle.

I put a USGI surplus cotton web sling on the rifle.  I would like something nicer, like a TAB, Tactical Intervention, or Mountain Shooter, but they’re expensive.  I would rather not have metal sling hardware of the USGI sling that close to my #1, but I already had the sling and it will gett’r done.

The complete system weighs in at approximately 8.4 lbs.  Too heavy for some, too light for others.  Pretty good for me.

There isn’t a lot to complain about, but I wish the grip was a tad more vertical, and just a bit closer to the trigger (I have small hands and smell like cabbage).  I could also live with a bit heavier barrel, but not much heavier.  The receiver also uses a proprietary dovetail system for sight mounting, which in theory is cool, but in practice is pretty limiting.  Someday I may upgrade to a McMillan or Manners composite stock.  I would also like to upgrade the scope to something with a front focal plane mil reticle with 0.1 mil knob adjustments.  I already have a 20 moa base waiting…

The other major issue with it has been the accuracy.  These things are supposed to be sub-minute guns.  What used to happen was that the first shot would be about 3 moa high, then they would all be touching.  After pulling my hair out for a while, I acquired a torque wrench.  Soon after I discovered that there was about 3 inch lbs. of torque on the action screws.  I tightened them up to 30 inch lbs (would have gone to 65, but not with a wood stock).  The cold bore is no longer so high, but I’m not getting spectacular accuracy either.

This 5 shot group was fired from 100 yards during load testing using a bipod and rear bag.  This is the best the rifle and I have been able to do so far.

Even with the accuracy being lackluster at the moment, there’s just something about this rifle.  I like the action a lot.  It has a lot of promise.  I know that “only accurate rifles are interesting”, but I’d like to see where this journey takes me.  If it leads to a bedding job or a new barrel, so be it.  It’s the only bolt gun I own at the moment that doesn’t weigh over 15 lbs.

I was just able to begin hand loading for this rifle after borrowing some dies.  Redding dies are in the cards, eventually, but they’re expensive (see a pattern emerging?- yes I have a decent job, but the monthly budget seems to run out before the gun category comes up).  The load I’m working up seems to be heading in the direction of a Lapua D46 FMJ 185 grain match bullet in Winchester brass over Vihtavouri N150 and a Winchester standard rifle primer seated for a ~.008 jump into the rifling with a muzzle velocity of approximately 2725 fps.

3 thoughts on “My #1 Gun

  1. This is going to be controversial.
    I’m going to agree with you about the terrible quality and finish of manufactured goods in general in the US. Why is this controversial? …well I’m a Brit.
    Why is ‘Made in the USA’ a reason for me to avoid a product?

    I realise I’m on dangerous ground here but I believe half the problem is the whole ‘buy USA’ movement. I’ll use the car industry as an example. The US INVENTED the automobile as we know it today, and then progressed and improved right up through the 60’s to produce the most diverse, best designed, best engineered and best assembled vehicles in the world.
    Then the arrogance set in “USA USA USA”…
    When I first went to the States (CA) I was seven and my jaw stayed in the ‘dropped open’ position all summer. The cars, the Disneyland monorail, the size of the stores, the size of the roads …….. I was in wonder. I noticed the US flag stickers and the buy american movement even then. My thought at the time was ‘why wouldn’t one as the US stuff is obviously the best.’
    Let’s jump forward 40 years to the last time I worked in the States.
    Looking at the stuff on the shelves at Walmart, the cars on the road the clothes, even the food ….. nothing had appeared to change in all that time. Now instead of having my jaw permanently open in wonder I’m looking around thinking what the hell happened? I’ve gone ‘back to the future’ and am in a 1970’s time warp.

    I hear a lot of political arguments from americans to explain this but I’m going to suggest a simpler one.
    “BUY USA”
    The basics of capitalism say the consumer should buy the best, at the lowest price. The ‘survival of the fittest’ produces constant innovation and improvement of the product. The minute patriotism turns into xenophobia you have a distorted market. If you want to resurrect US manufacturing stop buying stuff made in the USA if it isn’t the best.
    Here in the UK I have an Italian road bike, a Japanese off road bike, a Czech rifle, a German car, British audio, and an American …… well nothing. Looking round my house now nothing, zip, zilch not one single thing.
    Why is that? I can assure you it is not because I’m anti-US.
    My unasked for advice is be rational with your patriotism as blind patriotism leads to myopic judgements and failure. Sometimes one needs a friend to point out the obvious.

    • I don’t mind buying foreign stuff in general if the price is good and the quality is better, quality being more important. Quality being equal I will pay a bit more for a domestic product, because I think it’s important to have a local manufacturing base. I do avoid Chinese products, because I believe they are in the soft stages of a long war, but that’s way off topic.

      As far as rifles are concerned, I am currently using an American designed, American made rifle, but the parent company is out of Belgium. My rifle was made just prior to the machines being upgraded. By all accounts the current rifles are of superb quality and the prices are very competitive. The Sako is a nice rifle, but certainly reflects a different philosophy of design. I think they put a much greater emphasis on aesthetics. It’s shinier, it’s smoother, the finer points of finish are better attended to. The American design, as far as my experience has been so far, is more robust (zero broken parts, as compared with one broken pin with the Sako), more reliable (though not as reliable as a 98), but certainly less pretty, less smooth, and less well finished, although the finish is fine. The Model 70, in my opinion, is a much greater value for a shooter regardless of where it is made. The CZ may be a greater value, but my experience with integral dovetails for scope rings was not a positive one.

      There are still people in the US making things of very high quality. Actions, barrels, stocks, and all manner of accessories come to mind. Optics, however, do not.

      My TRG consists of a Finnish rifle, a Japanese scope, a Canadian scope base, a German muzzle brake (made by a Brit), American rings, and American bipod (again, not as pretty as the Sako, but I had 2 Sako bipods fail), and an American sling. My FN is all American made except for the scope.

  2. I don’t care where its made. When I make purchases, I buy the best quality product that my funds will allow. If that product is made in another country, so be it. If American companies want my money, they need to make a product superior to the competition at a price point I am able to pay. Opics are a fine example. My budget for optics is sub $1000.00. Sorry but thats all I can afford. The only companies world wide that make quality optics with the features I require are found outside the US.
    The scope on my AR 15 came from Vortex optics ( made in the Philipenes) My Bolt action .308 will either wear and SWFA optic or another one from Vortex. Why send my money over seas? THEY EARNED IT!! They provided a quality product with the features I require at a price I was able to pay .

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